Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Homer is an old fishing town with a bohemian feel and charm to spare. Sea kayaking excursions, guided hikes and nature walks, and fishing charters are all easily accessible and some of the best things to do in Homer.
Over the years, Homer’s small, walkable center has accumulated an eclectic collection of galleries, shops, cafés, and restaurants. Local craft beer and foraged Alaskan mushrooms, berries, and greens, are also stellar fixtures on the menus around town.
Homer’s real draw, however, lies in the panoramic views, which are nothing short of spellbinding. The glacier-crowned mountains rising over Kachemak Bay are achingly lovely, as is the sight of postcard-perfect boats bobbing in the harbor.
Here are the best things to do in Homer, Alaska.
Learn about Local Wildlife at the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Alaska is home to a dizzying array of creatures, many of which exist nowhere else on the planet. Curious travelers hoping to learn more about this fragile ecosystem should swing by this highly informative educational center.
The Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center’s engaging, immersive approach makes this an ideal stop for aspiring naturalists of all ages. The center itself includes models of a biologists’ field camp and a Bering Sea bird rookery, as well as a movie theater showing films such as Journey of the Tiglax, a documentary about a research vessel venturing into the nature preserve.
Many of the staff members at the center are trained naturalists who are more than happy to chat at length. While even a self-guided tour here is enjoyable, visitors with a few extra hours should check out the list of outdoor nature walks, which typically includes guided excursions to nearby Bishop’s Beach or the Beluga Slough Trail.
Read: Best Beaches in Alaska
Scan the Skies for Bald Eagles on the Homer Spit
Stretching more than four miles into the waters of Kachemak Bay, this spindly finger of land offers jaw-dropping vistas of distant snow-capped Alaskan mountains. Shoppers will find plenty of eye-catching crafts and souvenirs at the boutiques here, not to mention some of the best dining in town.
Stop by La Baleine, a café specializing in comfort food made with local, mostly organic ingredients. The Alaska crab melt, which comes piled high with chunks of crustacean, caramelized onions, braised leeks, and molten cheddar on top of garlicky sourdough toast is a must.
Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles in Alaska, which soar here in staggering numbers. Alaska is home to more than 30,000 of these striking predatory birds—far more than anywhere else in the United States—and Homer has a well-deserved reputation as one of the top places to spot them soaring.
Taste the Alaskan Terroir at Bear Creek Winery
Bill Fry first began tinkering with fermenting homemade fruit wines in his garage back in the 1990s. What started out as a hobby quickly mushroomed into a full-blown obsession. In 2003, Bill and his wife Dorothy opened up one of the few wineries in Alaska, complete with a tasting room and upmarket B&B.
Today, the couple’s daughter and son-in-law run the place. Sampling wines made with grapes, strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, apples, rhubarb, and other locally harvested or foraged fruits is one of the best things to do in Homer. And buy some to take home, of course.
Admire the Rugged Alaskan Coastline from the Kachemak Bay Water Trail
Home to black bears, mountain goats, and all sorts of other charismatic megafauna, Kachemak Bay State Park is one of the few truly wild places left in the United States.
In order to preserve the integrity of this 400,000-acre natural habitat, the Park Service has taken a low-intervention approach to the area. Large swathes of these mountains and forest are all but inaccessible to humans and are untouched by paved roads.
As a result, one of the best ways to survey the majesty of Kachemak Bay is actually by kayak. Maintained by a dedicated association of volunteers, the Kachemak Bay Water Trail is a roughly 125-mile route along the coastline.
Plenty of kayakers navigate the entire route or extended sections each year, stopping to spend the night at a network of campsites, yurts, and modest rental cabins.
As breathtaking as the full, multiday experience may be, daytrippers can still enjoy the scenery near Homer Harbor, or stop at noteworthy sites including Chugachik Island and Peterson Bay. Keep an eye out for Dall’s porpoises and sea otters as you paddle.
Shop for Seasonal Produce at the Homer Farmers Market
Thanks to the midnight sun, Alaska’s growing season is short but wonderfully fruitful. Farmers at these northern latitudes regularly harvest freakishly large pumpkins, cabbages, and other vegetables.
While the Homer Farmers Market seldom showcases these megaflora, it is home to a veritable cornucopia of exceptional produce, much of it organic or grown using sustainable methods.
Alaska also happens to have a longstanding tradition of foraging. Wild mushrooms, fragrant spruce tips, salmonberries, cloudberries, and lowbush blueberries all may make appearances at the local markets when in season.
The abundance of crafts made by local artisans make this the perfect place to shop for Alaskan souvenirs. From handmade ceramics to jams made with wild berries and fruits, there are all sorts of gems to be found here.
Don’t miss the halibut tacos, which come piled high with line-caught caught seafood and chunky guacamole, or the ice cream at Udder Delights of Alaska. The latter features a constantly rotating list of flavors including a Kentucky bourbon ice cream with salted, buttered nuts and a dark chocolate gelato with cayenne and cinnamon.
Peer into Tidal Pools on Bishop’s Beach
Bishop’s Beach, a scenic stretch curled around a peninsula jutting a little over a mile into Kachemak Bay, is a dreamy, pebble-strewn oasis. Take your shoes off and sink your toes into the soft sands or dare to take a quick dip into the shallow waters.
At low tide, the sea withdraws just enough to reveal tide pools brimming with starfish, crabs, and other marine life. Visitors are welcome to scoop up seashells to take home—just be mindful to make sure there are no living sea creatures still inhabiting them.
For anyone looking for a low-effort, high-reward Alaskan hike, the Beluga Slough Trail, which starts right by Bishop’s Beach, is an ideal option.
Slightly over a mile long, this loop trail passes plenty of photo-ops and takes just over a half-hour to complete. Watch out for moose and black bears, which regularly make their way near the route around dawn and dusk.
Admire One-of-a-Kind Sculptures at the Dean Family Farm & Art Studio
Situated a 15-minute drive from the center of Homer, this unusual oasis for local creatives is well worth the detour and is one of the best things to do in Homer. Jeffrey and Ranja Dean have been practicing artists for decades and their rustic timber home is now a repository of mixed-media sculptures and engravings.
During their two-hour tours, the couple leads small groups of visitors through their studio spaces and The Dean Gallery, which showcases many of their most noteworthy pieces. All of the tours come peppered with entertaining personal anecdotes and often feature the opportunity to see one or both artists at work.
Children and teenagers are especially likely to enjoy the tours, which include up-close encounters with an entire menagerie of Alaskan animals. Donkeys, goats, chickens, and even a yak have all been known to make appearances.
All of the animals are accustomed to guests and the Deans frequently let little ones pet their furry friends.
Explore the Boardwalk on Halibut Cove
As the 90 permanent residents who call this enclave home love to say, no roads lead to Halibut Cove. What sounds like hyperbole is, in fact, quite literally true. First established in 1911, this off-grid hamlet feels like another world and is one of the most beautiful places in Alaska.
A century ago, Halibut Cove was comparatively populous and prosperous, with more than 1,000 locals, most of whom worked in the 42 herring salteries. Once the local herring industry dried up and the salteries shuttered, the village dwindled, but never entirely disappeared.
Nowadays, the small community beckons to fishermen, artists, and other Alaskans with a fierce independent streak. Luckily for travelers, Halibut Cove is just a breezy ferry ride away from the Homer Spit.
Boats traverse the narrow distance multiple times a day, making it easy to spend a few hours wandering along the 12-block boardwalk here. During the ferry ride, keep your binoculars handy as you pass Gull Island, a favored nesting place of kittiwakes, puffins, and other seabirds.
During summer in Alaska from June through September, a visit to the iconic Saltry restaurant is an absolute must. Since 1984, this outdoor-only eatery on Ismailof Island has been dishing up Kachemak Bay oysters, halibut ceviche, and other local seafood specials.
Note that reservations are essential and that a visit to the restaurant requires a short jaunt on the Danny J Ferry.
Test Your Luck at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon
There’s a good reason wild Alaskan salmon is so highly coveted by chefs around the globe. For anyone who has ever dreamed of catching their own, the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon—known to locals simply as “The Fishing Hole”—is the perfect place to try.
Competitive local fishermen (and women) flock to The Fishing Hole to scoop up salmon to smoke and freeze for the winter months.
Since these waters are so well-stocked with coho and king salmon, even amateur fishermen with limited time often enjoy a high success rate. Locals will gladly recommend places in town to freeze your catch, although many visitors opt to snap a trophy photo, then release their salmon.
Regardless of whether or not you manage to haul in a big one, The Fishing Hole, which is located on the Homer Spit, is an exceedingly pleasant place to while away a few hours.
Peruse Works by Local Artists on Gallery Row
Homer’s unconventional way of life has long appealed to self-sufficient creatives seeking a respite from fast-paced urban centers. Over the years, this small Alaskan town has evolved into a vibrant artistic community, complete with an impressive array of galleries.
For culture-vultures, “Gallery Row,” located along Pioneer Avenue between Lake Street and Main Street, is the perfect place to browse. Ptarmigan Arts, an artist-run co-op, features a constantly rotating selection of oil paintings, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, and other original pieces.
Meanwhile, Picture Alaska is just right for anyone hoping to bring home framed photography or paintings of the otherworldly landscapes that Alaska is known for.
Sip Craft Beers at the Homer Brewing Company
Started more than two decades ago by a group of enthusiastic homebrewers, Homer’s first commercial brewery is truly a labor of love. Although the microbrewery got its start in fairly makeshift digs, it moved to its current home in 2001, where it has enjoyed a devoted local following ever since.
Most of the offerings here make regular appearances at bars and restaurants around town, but craft suds-lovers should head to the taproom for the full tasting experience.
Be sure to sample some of the flagship lineup, which includes the Red Knott Scottish, an amber-hued Scottish ale named for a migrating shorebird, and the China Poot Porter, a rich, roasty number that takes its moniker from one of the most famous mountains visible from Kachemak Bay.
Keep an eye out for seasonal specials like the Celestiale, a spiced ale brewed with Belgian Abbey yeast in honor of the winter solstice each year.
Ready to discover Homer’s quirky, artistic atmosphere for yourself? Browse our Cruisetours to Homer and plan your adventure to the Last Frontier.